Three adolescent and a men’s health clinics were launched on Thursday, in Mahdia.
The collaborative initiative between the Ministry of Public Health and the United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF) is aimed at improving healthcare services for adolescents and men residing in the region.
Speaking at the launch of the initiative at Mahdia’s District Hospital, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, (DCEO) Dr. Karen Boyle explained that in Regions One, Seven, Eight and Nine there is a disproportionately high number of pregnancy and maternal mortalities among teenagers as opposed to urban areas.
Guyana has been recorded as having the second highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Latin America and the Caribbean, with 97 per 1000 teenage pregnancies, after the Dominican Republic with 98 per 1000.
Dr. Boyle said this is alarming since “we know that teen pregnancy is not only a health risk but is also a social risk factor that impacts our maternal motility rate and has the potential to negatively impact the economic productivity of the next generation.” Hence, it is crucial that teenage pregnancy is minimised or eradicated completely from society.”
The DCEO outlined the some of the causes of teenage or unplanned pregnancy such as sexual violence and incest, power differential (men deciding when they will have sex) and intergenerational sex (young girls having sex with older men). Very often these have led to a high percentage of teens being at risk of contracting Sexual Transmitted Diseases (STDs) or the Human Immune Virus (HIV/AIDS). However, protection from these diseases is possible Dr. Boyle said.
“You have to know how to protect yourself and …here at the clinic we know it has adolescent friendly (staff) to enable you to protect yourself by providing the necessary information and guidance.”
The DCEO underscored the need for more programmes and community groups to actively address the issue of teen health and pregnancy. To this end, she noted that the Ministry will seek partnership with the Ministries of Education, Communities, Indigenous People’s Affairs and Social Protection to provide the necessary assistance. She also called on other stakeholders to get involved in this fight.
Meanwhile, UNICEF’s Representative, Sylvie Fouet explained that adolescence can be a period of challenges and vulnerability, therefore access to youth-friendly services are critical in this regard. In partnering with the Ministry of Public Health the main aim is to give young mothers and fathers the access to knowledge and information skills.
Men’s Health Coordinator, Dr. Dennis Bassier, explained that menfolk will benefit from counselling and therapy sessions. He highlighted that there are cases of men not fully comprehending the dangers of teenage pregnancy and how to care for their newborn babies. “We will provide counselling with them along with their partners to let them understand what happens,” Dr. Bassier said.
Further, Medical Officer, Mahdia District Hospital, Dr. Badel Baksh highlighted that the area faces challenges as it relates to teenage pregnancy, since many teenagers practice experimentation, whether it be with drugs or sex.
“There is the need for much sensitisation, hopefully at this forum, we will be able to break the cultural barrier with this population and they can know that this is the place to come for all their problems. Health is everybody’s business and we must look out for each other,” Dr. Baksh said
Following the launch, the visiting team made a donation of a large flat screen television and a DVD player to the Mahdia District Hospital for educational purposes.